The Art of Senior Happiness

Article by Dr. Michael Tobin

Premium: An active, curious, exceptionally young-at-heart person over 60 who is into style, ideas, and cultivates innovation and Personal evolution at all levels.

Forgive me, but I have to start with some assumptions about you. I do this  despite a stern warning I received as a young army recruit in the summer of 1966 that “assumptions are the mother of all f**k ups.”

So, bear with me and let’s start assuming: At this point, if you’ve been following our blogs, I’m going to assume that you’re one of us – a card carrying Connoisseur of experience – a Premium.

I’m also going to assume that as a Premium, you enjoy being you. Or, to put it somewhat differently, you’ve mastered the art of Premium Happiness, despite the fact that you may not be able to deconstruct the steps you’ve taken to get  there.

One more assumption before we begin our journey into the heart of Premium Happiness: I’m going to assume that you’ve got the basics covered:

  1. Enough money so you don’t wake up worrying about what you don’t have
  2. Sufficient health so that you’re not in a constant state of mourning over the loss of your once youthful body
  3. A life filled with the kind of significant others where you can and do smile at each other’s imperfections
  4. Meaningful activity that keeps you curious, challenged, and creative

One caveat before we dig into the Art of Premium Happiness: No doubt that if you check the yes box on each of these four assumptions, you’re already scoring high on the happiness scale. However, true happiness is not conditioned on being 100% satisfied in every area of life. If there’s one thing we Premiums understand is that we don’t control all the variables.

Proof: Just ask anyone who invested in a fund remotely connected to Madoff and listen to what he has to say about the illusion of certainty and security. One thing however is certain: the ones who survived the Madoff tragedy scored high on 3 above.

So, let’s start digging into the subtle qualities of Premium Happiness like letting go, gratitude, self-mastery, honesty, and learning – in that order. For the less touchy feelie among us, don’t for a second think of these as soft, mushy feelings. To master the attributes of Premium Happiness you need a liberal sprinkling of determination, discipline, and self-awareness.

Letting Go

I’ve heard that we enter the world with a tight fist and leave it with our hands open. For many of us, when we’re young, we feel compelled to seize the world, to grab experiences, to hold on to what is ours. We feel driven to accumulate more of everything until Everything begins to feel like it’s missing Something. This is when the struggle to let go begins.

It’s so hard to give up on wanting More even when we realize that the More that we want doesn’t speak to our soul. Yet, those of us who call ourselves Premiums eventually surrender to the cry for authenticity and slowly discard what no longer fits the dimensions of our true selves. This is the ongoing process of letting go, or, as Michelangelo put it, “I removed everything that wasn’t David.


Imagine this: You’ve just won the Academy Award for an Extraordinary Life, Well-Lived. Who would you acknowledge? How about all those folks from your parents, to your family, to your teachers, to your friends, to your loved ones, to the authors of those books that changed your life, to the strangers who build your roads, to the unsung heroes who keep you safe, to those unknowns from the farmers and ranchers who provide you with your food, to the technical wizards who created new forms of communication and access to a wealth of resources.

Remember this: Happiness is a function of saying “Thank you” for each and every blessing on the road to becoming a Premium.


There’s a scale called Locus of Control that measures whether you believe that things happen to you or whether you believe that you make things happen. In other words, do external circumstances dictate the direction of your life, or do you see circumstances as potential opportunities waiting to be mastered?

The more the dial shifts toward an internal sense of self-control and direction, the more it equates with a higher degree of happiness. If you find yourself in the center of your life as a conductor, a director, and a wise sage, then most likely you feel a sense of empowerment, creativity, and enthusiasm.

Experience has taught us Premiums to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t. Knowing the difference is another key to Premium Happiness.


I was standing in front of the mirror sucking in my stomach and admiring how thin and athletic I looked when my wife said, “Who are you kidding? You’re fat. Relax your stomach muscles and start seeing what you don’t want to see.”

It’s so easy to fool yourself, to see what you want to see, to believe what your mind wants you to believe. We have it so wrong. Seeing isn’t believing; believing is seeing. Our beliefs distort our ability to see the truth.

So, if you don’t have a spouse or friend who’s your bullshit detector, how do you avoid sucking in your stomach and thinking you’re thin? How do you look in the mirror and see an unbiased reflection?

Here’s where I take a leap of faith. I believe that we Premiums have sufficient life experience to laugh at our foibles, to cut through our bullshit, and to have the humility to acknowledge our imperfections.

I’m quite sure that even without my wife’s “help,” I would have eventually seen what she saw. Why? Because I’m a Premium and I understand that there’s no honesty without humility and there’s no true happiness without either.

Learning or the fine art of the question

“Who is wise?

“He who learns from everyone.” (The Ethics of our Fathers)

How do you develop wisdom?

Ask a good question.

What distinguishes a good question from a statement masked as a question?

Curiosity and humility.

How do you know if you’re really curious and humble?

If you learn from everyone and every experience.

If you learn from everyone and every experience.

Everything. Cultivate curiosity and humility, develop the art of listening, be open to leaning from life, and then tell me if you’re not brimming with enthusiasm, joie de vivre, and a sense of wonder.

If that’s not happiness, then what is?

So no doubt, if you’ve been cultivating all five of these attributes of Premium Happiness, you’re one fine example of a Premium with a bounce to her walk.

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